As Danny Boyle’s amazing opening ceremony proved, the Olympic games are a perfect opportunity for a bit of drama. The games feed audiences triumph and tragedy – from the deeply personal, as contestants face their private demons, to the grand and international, as rival nation play out rivalries in the sporting arena.
No surprise, then, that the Olympics have served as a backdrop, and sometimes the star, of numerous rousing feature films over the years. Here are five of our favourite stories.
1. Chariots of Fire
Hugh Hudson’s iconic 1981 film tells the story of two British athletes as they prepare for the 1924 Paris Olympics. It won four Oscars and has since been ranked 19th in the BFI’s list of top 100 British films. The music’s pretty good too.
2. Berlin 36
This recent German film tells the powerful tale of German Jewish high-jumper Gretel Bergmann, snubbed by the Nazi regime in the run-up to the 1936 games in favour of her roomate, Marie Ketteler. The twist? Ketteler is later discovered to be a man.
3. Asterix at the Olympic Games
One of the most expensive European films ever, this 2007 French live-action movie follows beloved characters Asterix, Obelix and Dogmatix as they make their way to the Olympic Games in Greece during the time of the Roman occupation of Gaul. It was mauled by critics, but topped box offices in Poland, Spain and France.
4. Cool Runnings
A classic, if ever there was one. This well-loved 1993 comedy tells the story of Jamaica’s first national bobsled team as they compete in the 1988 Winter games. Who can forget the sight of the team carrying the sled over the finish line at the climax? It’s enough to bring a tear to the eye. Altogether now: “feel the rhythm, feel the rhyme…”
5. Walk, Don’t Run
Notable not only as the only comedy I can think of set during the 1964 Tokyo Olympic games but also as the last feature film appearance of Bristolian legend Cary Grant, this 1966 movie is a remake of 1943’s The More the Merrier. It also stars Samantha Eggar as a landlady who reluctantly takes in Grant’s businessman, and Jim Hutton as an American Olympian who comes to live with them.